Tamim, Imrul showed you can think big - Mushfiqur
Every time Imrul Kayes returned to and headed out from the dressing-room during breaks on the fourth day of the first Test, his teammates reminded him how his idol Kumar Sangakkara used to balance the tough job of keeping wicket and batting in the top order. It was an unusually exasperating assignment for Kayes, one that he would almost certainly never have to repeat.
Imrul kept wicket for 120 overs after Mushfiqur Rahim sprained his right ring finger while dropping Azhar Ali on the second day, before partnering with Tamim Iqbal for a record-breaking 312-run opening stand in the second innings. They became the first opening pair to add more than 300 in the second innings of a Test, and in the process saved the game for Bangladesh after they had conceded a first-innings lead of 296.
Both Imrul and Tamim got to their highest Test scores, 150 and 206 respectively. Tamim now holds the highest score for Bangladesh in all three formats, and the double-hundred was a continuation of his heavy scoring against Pakistan, after two hundreds and a fifty in the ODI series.
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur said he was happy that Tamim overtook his individual highest Test score but added that Imrul deserved more recognition because he did it under physical and circumstantial pressure.
"You have to give Imrul more credit," Mushfiqur said. "He wasn't playing in the ODIs and neither did he score in domestic cricket. He was under pressure and to play such an innings is an achievement. He had a lot of extra work as a keeper in this game. We gave them support during the break.
"We tried to remind him that just like his idol Sangakkara keeps wicket and bats for 200 overs, you have to do it. They batted for so long in this heat. Hats off to them for their concentration. I hope we can remain like this consistently. We believed that we could bat four or five sessions if our ball selection was mostly correct. I didn't think their partnership would be this big. It was outstanding."
Mushfiqur said that the pair's mentality helped the team. Tamim and Imrul raced to their hundreds in the last session on day four. Typically Bangladesh batsmen are prone to be dismissed soon after a milestone or when approaching the end of a session or a day. But they kept going at the same tempo and hit Pakistan out of the game by the end of the fourth day, as admitted later by captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
"You won't give your best if you don't want to win," Mushfiqur said. "The draw mentality doesn't give you a chance to improve. Tamim and Imrul showed that you can think big. They could have stopped it at a 100-run stand but they just kept pushing themselves. They played for the team."
Tamim echoed Mushfiqur's words later, saying that they had to bat longer to make sure the Pakistan bowlers had less time to bowl them out and chase a target.
"Our own job was over after we made hundreds," Tamim said. "We went to bat thinking now we have to do the team's job. We have to kill time despite remaining positive.
"Imrul's batting was unbelievable. I am lucky that we bat well together. The manner in which he is batting, anyone would enjoy batting with Imrul. Getting to the record is unbelievable. We are both very happy.
Tamim said that he was thinking about the double hundred when he was 30-odd runs away from the mark. On 182, he struck two sixes off Yasir Shah over long-on and on 195, his straight blast over bowler Junaid Khan got him to 201.
"I have never been able to reach the standards I have set. I am happy that I have been able to fulfill a dream of making a double hundred. I started thinking about the double hundred when I was on 169. Then a few sixes happened. I knew he would bowl at that spot when I was on 195. It was always going to be good for me if I made it out quickly.
"I think Mushfiqur has the best chance to surpass this record within the next year. I am sure Mushfiqur is very happy; he has been helping me a lot in my bad times."
This is now the mother of all opening partnerships for Bangladesh, and also a milestone for second-innings rearguard action in Tests. Coach Chandika Hathurusingha was moved to say that he had not seen anything like this before.
"I have never seen a fightback like that," Hathurusingha said. "Pakistan's bowling attack is arguably the best on this type of wicket at the moment. Under pressure of 300 runs behind, (it) is a hell of an achievement."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84